How to use influencer marketing in your back-to-school campaigns
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They come every year without fail: Back-to-school sales and ads.
Let's be honest—most people could live without the constant barrage of ads everywhere.
With $37 billion in revenue up for grabs this season, you can bet brands are going to be all over back-to-school ads.
So how do you make your brand stand out in the noise of back-to-school ads?
One way is collaborating with creators.
If they’re not in your plans, you might want to rethink it because 3 in every 4 parents purchased a product recommended by a social media influencer through an affiliate link in 2021.
1. Identify your campaign goals
Like any marketing channel, figure out what you want to achieve. Here are some goals that you might consider:
- Drive in-store traffic
- Increase web visits
- Improve brand awareness
- Change brand perceptions
- Acquire new customers
Your approach to partnering with creators is going to change depending on your business goal for the back-to-school season. So don’t skip this step.
Here are some great examples of creator campaigns with various campaign goals.
Campaign Goal: Drive website traffic
Creator: Carter (@carterpcs)
Lenovo partnered with Carter to make it simple to find the right laptop for back-to-school on lenovo.com. He shares a screen recording of him scrolling through the online store showing viewers how easy it is to navigate the site and then discusses the laptop he chose for his needs. It promotes a direct call to action to lenovo.com through product education, a glimpse of the online shopping experience, and highlighting their site-wide discount.
Campaign Goal: Drive website traffic and sign-ups
Brand: Bank of America
Creator: Steve (@calltoleap)
Bank of America partnered with Steve, a financial freedom creator, to educate students on their credit card and cashback program. He shares information about the credit card, the application process, and how to go about getting the cashback for a new back-to-school laptop. The video is educational, while implicitly creating a sense of urgency for students to act now.
Campaign Goal: Drive website traffic
Creator: Sarah Nicole Landry (@thebirdspapaya)
Sarah, an online creator, and mother, shares her back-to-school shopping experience for her three kids using Well.ca to find everything in one place. She writes “everything is organized based on needs and age, from backpacks to school snacks and even environmentally friendly solutions” to help viewers understand how easy it is to find what they're looking for — and shop sustainably.
Campaign Goal: Drive in-store traffic
Creator: Izzy and Mary (Life With Brothers on YouTube)
Izzy and Mary share a vlog of their in-store shopping experience at Target, promoting a fun back-to-school shopping trip for students in their audience. They connect with the creators’ target audience in an organic way while sharing the live experience in the store. It’s a much-anticipated video every year by their 5 million+ subscribers — check out the comments!
Campaign Goal: Drive brand awareness
Creator: Spencer (@spencer.barbosa)
Rogers partners with Spencer, an influential Gen Z TikTok creator, to share back-to-school tech hacks with her audience. TikTok users have loved this trend since it first emerged, it’s a great way to introduce new products or features in an engaging way. Rogers uses the hashtag #HackToSchoolWithRogers to create a viral effect of online creators sharing hacks with Rogers products.
Campaign Goal: Drive in-store traffic
Creator: Taylor (@taylor.doddowens)
Taylor, an Ivy League college TikTok creator, shares her great back-to-school finds at her local Target — all for less than $100. She captures her audience with a live experience while promoting all the in-store deals and new products.
Campaign Goal: Drive brand and product awareness
Creator: Carter (@carterpcs)
Carter, a tech TikTok creator, partners with Intel to announce an internship and product giveaway to students. This #IntelStudentChallenge was a great creator campaign to get students to share about Intel products and features. Giveaways like this are great because they educate viewers about the brand and the content is typically shared among friends adding a viral element to the campaign.
Campaign Goal: Drive brand awareness
Creator: George Russell (Formula 1 driver)
TeamViewer partnered with Mercedes AMGF1 and George Russell to share his experience using their remote classroom technology when he visited his old hometown school. Partnerships like this are a great way to connect with an audience emotionally while bringing two relevant audiences together. George Russell is a great example of a macro-influencer campaign, but brands can also build awareness through partnering with a larger number of micro creators too. Both strategies can work well depending on your brand and business goals.
Campaign Goal: Change brand perception and bring awareness to a new product line
Brand: Abercrombie & Fitch
Creator: Denise Mercedes (@denisemercedes)
Abercrombie & Fitch has taken a lot of heat for years of discrimination — they even got the title “most hated retailer”. They have since done a lot to shift their brand to a more diverse, body-positive, and down-to-earth clothing brand. They partnered with Denise Mercedes on TikTok during the 2021 back-to-school season to bring awareness to their new “Curve Love” line, offering clothing for curvy body types. Denise often uses the hashtag #stylenotsize, and she has built up an audience of followers who trust her, helping Abercrombie & Fitch shift their brand perception with younger generations.
Campaign Goal: Change brand and product perception
Creator: Jonas Brothers
Post-it partnered with the Jonas Brothers on their Remember This tour in the 2021 back-to-school season to reach their audience of K-12 and college students through Instagram and Facebook. They made a couple of Instagram posts and a video showing how they used Post-it notes to plan for their tour, to shift how people about the product and its many uses.
Campaign Goal: Drive new product line awareness and in-app purchases
Brand: American Eagle
Creator: Chase Stokes and Madison Bailey from the Outer Banks TV series
American Eagle partners with the cast of the popular teen series, Outer Banks and leverages Snapchat shopping features to drive back-to-school clothing purchases. They use creator video content with Madison Bailey and Chase Stokes to connect with their young audiences. They use Snapchat to share video stories, have creators highlight products on their Snapchat main page, offer an augmented reality jean guide, and even drove $2 million in sales through a seasonal virtual pop-up shop.*
Campaign Goal: Drive bottom-of-funnel action
Brand: Highlights for Children
Creator: Araceli Bindrup (@arybindrup)
Araceli shares a post on Instagram about her daughter’s new backpack from Highlights for Children on Instagram and offers a discount code for her audience to go make the same purchase. This strategy has worked time and time again — and makes your campaign efforts easily measurable. You can also use this strategy in an Instagram story with a direct website link talking the viewer directly to the site rather than navigating to it from a post.
2. Find the right creators
Your back-to-school campaign goals will influence the type of creator you partner with. There are factors like the creator location, follower count, and audience demographics that will be critical to consider when planning a partnership. With the right partnership, creators will build a human connection with your target audience, resulting in increased brand awareness, consideration, affinity, and purchase.
Here are some great examples of strong creators for back-to-school campaigns::
Creator: Chacha (@_growinglittlehumans_)
Audience size: 36K
Charissa is a mother and creator who loves to post about healthy food, children's toys, and raising two kids. She is a great micro-creator with a lot of following and engagement from other parents. She often shares a lot about toys and products she purchases for her family, so her followers are expecting educational product content, making her a great creator partner for a back-to-school campaign.
Creator: Morgan & Ale(@twomomsinmotion)
Audience size: 64K
Morgan and Ale are Canadian creators who share about their life as a two-mom family. They're LGBTQ+ allies, environmental sustainability advocates, and local business supporters. They have incredibly high engagement on their posts and make for a great back-to-school creator account to reach mothers that feel connected and aligned with their values.
Creator: Adrian the Alien (adrianthealien1)
Audience size: 169K
Adrian is a creator, husband, and father of two living in California. His content is highly engaging and ranges from life as a parent to humorous reels. His content connects with other Mexican parents and families, making him a top creator among others in the US for a back-to-school campaign focused on the Hispanic community.
Creator: Burton Buffaloe (@bbbuffaloe)
Audience size: 169K
Burton Buffaloe is a creator and father who shares about his life raising twins with his husband, Dustin. The account shares about life on a farm, supporting small businesses, raising their two kids, and has partnered with brands like Old Navy and LEGO.
Creator: Sarah Nicole Landry @thebirdspapaya
Audience size: 2.2M
Sarah Landry and her family are well known on Instagram for her vulnerability as a mother and advocate for body positivity. She has connected with mothers all over the world who are living through many of the same thoughts, challenges, and experiences. Sarah is a top account to consider for back-to-school campaigns as her connection with her audience is raw, authentic, and engaging.
Creator: Latroy & Nicole (@lovethetillerys)
Audience size: 70K
The Tillery family is a family of four who creates motivational content about raising kids, marriage, their faith, financial freedom, and leading a positive life. Latroy and Nicole live authentically and share vulnerable moments and stories with their audience, so their audience can relate to and connect with them. Their partnerships are authentic and their content really resonates with other parents on TikTok, making their family a great option for a back-to-school collaboration.
Creator: Josh Slavin (@slavinjoshua)
Audience size: 77K
Josh Slavin is a college student who shares about investing, travel, food, and life at college. He often partners with online apps, snacks, dorm room products, and tools that are targeted at college students. Josh typically shares his video content through “A day in the life” style posts to inspire other college students. An account like his is great for brands looking to reach college students trying to find new tools and build better habits.
Creator: Zayaan (@z.ayaan)
Audience size: 283K
Zayaan is a student creator. She shares about productivity, daily routines, recommended reading, and her life as a Muslim university student. She creates aesthetically pleasing content tailored to other young university students, making her a great account for college-related campaigns.
Creator: Mr.Pyper (@mr.pyper)
Audience size: 1.9M
Mr.Pyper is a 25-year-old gym teacher and TikTok creator who posts funny and relatable videos for students and teachers. He has a massive following and has recently partnered with brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and AT&T. He’s a top choice for brands looking to create light-hearted, funny, and relatable back-to-school campaigns for high school and college students.
Creator: Fluellen family
Audience size:: 3.2M
The Fluellens are a family of content creators living in California. Gerard and Alyssa met in college, had three children, and now they create relatable family and parenting content on Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok. They have a strong TikTok presence and are incredibly relatable for parents with young children younger than 10.
3. Plan your back-to-school campaign
When do customers go back-to-school shopping?
In the Rakuten Back to School 2021 report, 36% of respondents intended to start back-to-school shopping in July, and 26% had started in June or earlier. This means 62% of respondents have started their back-to-school shopping as of the end of July. 31% of the remaining respondents plan to start back-to-school shopping in August, with only 7% waiting until September or later. (Rakuten 2021)
Given the number of resources your marketing team has and the scale of your creator campaign, brands will typically begin planning in the spring or early summer to launch back-to-school campaigns between May and August.
Where does back-to-school shopping actually occur?
In 2021, 29% said they split their shopping evenly between in-store and online, 25% shopped mostly in-store, 23% mostly online, 15% only in-store, and 8% all online. It is safe to say that it is important for brands to account for both online and in-store shopping in their marketing plans. With 85% of shoppers making back-to-school purchases online, it is critical that eCommerce brands use creator campaign strategies that push for online purchasing.
College & University
In 2021, 33% said they split their shopping evenly between in-store and online, 22% shopped mostly online, 20% mostly in-store, 20% all online, and 4% all in-store.
Find the best channel for your brand
Use trends to rise to the top of the online conversation and make your brand stand out. Every year there are new trends and viral challenges brands can get involved in on TikTok and Instagram to help brands stand out to the consumer.
In 2021, #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt reached more than 10 billion views, making it one of the most popular trends of the year (Insider Intelligence). In June 2022, the hashtag has reached 14.4 billion views, making the trend just as relevant today.
TikTok users turn to the platform to make informed buying decisions from creators they trust and love. In the latest Insider Intelligence report, TikTok Commerce 2022, videos from popular influencers and creators led to users discovering more about food and drink (30%), luxury products (34%), and cars (28%).
Other relevant data to suggest TikTok should be integrated with brands’ back to school marketing strategy:
- 24% of TikTok users researched or purchased a product reviewed by a creator (AdWeek)
- 42% of users say they’re on TikTok to discover new things *
- 67% of users say TikTok introduced them to products they had never even thought of before *
- Of all purchases made after seeing the product on TikTok, 71% of these were unplanned *
- 57% of users agree that TikTok inspired them to shop even when they weren’t looking to do so *
Here is a list of the top hashtags for this back-to-school season on TikTok:
- #BackToSchool - 11.1B views
- #BackToSchoolCheck - 431.8M views
- #schoolSupplies - 357.9M views
- #Dormroom - 234.1M views
- #BackToSchoolOutfit - 139.3M views
- #DormDecor - 61.5M views
- #BackToSchool2022 - 60.5M views
- #BackToSchoolShopping - 51.8M views
- #Stationaryhaul - 41M views
- #BackToSchoolHaul - 37.M views
- #DormRoomDecor - 34.04M views
- #BackToSchoolChallenge - 9.4M views
- #uniessentials - 8.8M views
- #SchoolSuppliesHaul - 11.5M views
- #BackpackEssentials - 1M views
In late 2021, Instagram surpassed 2 billion active monthly users. More than half of Instagram’s users are younger than 34, with its majority being 18 to 34.* Instagram is a great platform to advertise to mothers and college students for back-to-school creator campaigns.
In a back-to-school research study, #paid uncovered a few key learnings for campaign success with an American dollar store chain. The goal of the creator campaign was to push for in-store visits and brand familiarity on Instagram. The campaigns were targeted at moms with children in K-12 using Instagram reels and posts. The brand's creator marketing strategy focused on promotional offerings for back-to-school that could be found in the store.
Here were some of the key learnings and results about back-to-school creator campaigns from #paid:
- The top-performing creator content was an organic Instagram story of a creator walking through the store and buying all the school supplies for less than $50. Show consumers what is available in-store and what kind of back-to-school discounts are available.
- 46% of those exposed to the brand study would be most likely to purchase after viewing the engaging video content versus the static post.
- In a household, 62% of the moms perform the back-to-school shopping over the dads. Consider ads solely targeting moms.
- In 2021, 26% of shoppers already began back-to-school shopping before June (NRF). Consider different flights of back-to-school campaigns that begin as early as May.
- An increase in ad exposure lead to a 24% lift in brand familiarity. Consider running multiple campaigns to reinforce the message.
- Familiarity with creators led to a 9% lift in consideration intent. Exposing your target audience to the brand from the same creator with multiple ad exposures will increase the likelihood of buying.
2022 will be a big year for back-to-school shopping, and brands will continue to fight for consumers' attention. If creator marketing isn’t part of your back-to-school marketing strategy, this year would be a great time to incorporate it. Set clear campaign goals, partner with creators that align with your goals and brand, and plan your launch!